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Adaptation and the Importance of Local Culture: Creating a Research School at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Ronald Rainger
Journal of the History of Biology
Vol. 36, No. 3 (Autumn, 2003), pp. 461-500
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4331827
Page Count: 40
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Adaptation and the Importance of Local Culture: Creating a Research School at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
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Abstract

In the 1930s and 1940s a research school developed among scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. Although that was due in large part to Harald U. Sverdrup, a prominent Norwegian oceanographer who served as Scripps director from 1936 to 1948, this paper emphasizes the adaptive, evolving character of that research school. Conditions at Scripps prior to Sverdrup's arrival influenced his efforts in successfully organizing a group of scientists. Once at Scripps Sverdrup proved to be an able leader, but he also had to adapt to the local scientific culture. Trained in a tradition that emphasized the study of physics, chemistry and meteorology, Sverdrup's emphasis on dynamical oceanography had a powerful impact on his new colleagues. But in the process his understanding of oceanography also evolved. He became more fully aware of the importance of biological and geological investigations, and it was only through close interaction with and reliance on a diverse group of scientists that there emerged an ecological understanding of the oceans that became a hallmark of Scripps oceanography. Emphasizing the importance of adaptation and interaction, and the work of other scientists in addition to a group leader, this paper offers new insights into the formation of research schools.

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